A story in Monday's Times Observer about statistics indicating that Warren County is graduating high school students at a higher rate than 40 years ago and attaining more college diplomas would seem to be great news for the future of the county.
However, it may also be an insight into the factors that have led to the county's steady population decline during that same period.
What? Is the Times Observer saying that education is bad?
Hardly. Education is inherently good, and we would encourage any high school student who plans to continue their education past the 12th grade to do so.
The realities of the local economy and job market have to be taken into account when one considers the consequences that Warren County faces despite these good educational numbers.
As Judith Stallman of the Center for Rural Strategies pointed out, "Young people graduating from high school (in rural areas) don't see many jobs that demand a college diploma, so they don't think about coming home once they leave for university."
Job openings in Warren County are not non-existent, but they are fewer than they used to be. The skill sets needed by employers are shifting. Although Warren County's unimployment rate is still lower than the national average, it is higher than it has been traditionally.
The bottom line is that students should be preparing for their future long before they graduate from high school. They should target their post-secondary education to opportunities that exist where they would like to live. If their goal is to remain in Warren County, then they should scout out the opportunities that exist or have a good chance of emerging in the future. Talk to business people; talk to counselors about your future. And, don't discount the opportunities afforded by technical schools.
The United Negro College Fund had a slogan: "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." Those words are appropriate for everyone.